Can You Guess What’s So Special About THIS Happy Meal?

Take a good look at this picture. A real good look.

Notice anything different?

Look again.

At the burger.

The fries.

Give up?

What you need to know:

This Happy Meal recently celebrated its first birthday. Says its owner, Joann Brusso:

My Happy Meal is one year old today and it looks pretty good. It NEVER smelled bad. The food did NOT decompose. It did NOT get moldy, at all. This morning, I took it off my shelf to take a birthday photo. The first year is always a milestone. read more…

What exactly do they put in there to make it so?

And why do they need to?

After all this is a fast food, served in a fast food restaurant, which means the time from the moment it is heated/prepared til the moment it hits your stomach, is usually measured in minutes, if not seconds. Here is a picture of the newborn meal:

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  • Erin @ One Particular Kitchen

    I think I just threw up a little.

  • Pat Keahi

    excellent post. thank you. reminds me of something I just learned from the Iditarod sled dog race, that Twinkies don’t freeze – even at -65F. That means Twinkies wouldn’t freeze on Mars either. “food” – yeah, right.

    love your site!

  • Pat Drummond

    Reminds me of the time I accidentally dropped a small yoghurt container in the trunk of my car one summer – the car sits under a tree but still gets some sun. At least a week later (could have been 2-3), I found it, peeled off the lid and it was as good as the day it came from the store.

    • Editorial Staff

      BTW, a similar cheeseburger experiment is going on over at the Snack Girl Blog

    • Quaid01

      poke a couple holes in that yogurt lid and through it in your trunk for a couple more weeks tard.

  • benoit
    • Editorial Staff

      @benoit – thanks for spotting that. Uploaded the right picture – not much of a difference…

  • Mark

    Can anyone tell me what they expect this meal kept on a shelf to look like? If the beef patty is 100% beef and has not decayed at all, does this actually have anything to do with the preservatives? I don’t know the answer myself so would appreciate comments. What would a homemade equivalent look like?

  • Lauren Slayton

    Ha! I don’t know what’s grosser, keep a meal on a shelf or the fact that it doesn’t decay/mold/age as food is meant to do. Oh yeah- this isn’t food.

  • fibrohubby

    not my idea of a fun birthday

  • J in VA

    In response to the Supersize Me movie, we put some McD fries in a jar on top of our ‘frige. That was June ’06, they look the same today as they did when we put them in there.

  • Dan

    “What exactly do they put in there to make it so?” Well for one, salt. LOTS of salt. Fast food outlets are renowned for using so much. Salting is an ancient and important method of food preservation. It is one of the oldest methods of preserving food.

  • Maureen

    GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am ready to convert to

  • Sara

    Really? Not even the bread went moldy? Around here, bread starts growing green fuzzies after about a week… And from where I’m sitting, that meat patty looks pretty slimy and decomposed…

  • NeoHumpty

    Oh, just eat it already. It isn’t a fine wine.

  • Frank

    Gee, way to try to be sensationalist over perfectly natural decomposition. There’s a lot of reasons why this seems to have not changed much – first, people who do this typically put the object in a container. That means the food will “mummify” rather than mold, since no fresh air or excessive moisture is added. You will notice on the pictures the burger is plain, no additions whatsoever. Any moisture, like ketchup, dressing, or even the wet from salad and such, would have caused the entire thing to mold in a natural way.

    Make your own hamburger, from home, a dry flat patty the same way they do at McD, but without any preservatives. Make a dry bread as well. Put them in an identical can. You will find that your homemade, preservative free meal, will decay in exactly the same slow and dry way as the McD meal.

    • Editorial Staff

      @Frank, the “meal” was left on an open shelf near a window that was regularly opened.

    • Quaid01

      I don’t agree, show us with your own experiment. I bought a salad from Wendy’s once and left it in the fridge for 4 months and it looked exactly the same. Why won’t the lettuce and vegetable do the same thing? I have also seen Mcd’s food in a container and without container, no molding, not even the bread……Your “natural” decomp is not so natural.

  • J

    I made Christmas cookies late last year, and in the process inadvertently started a closed-off experiment of my own with the uneaten ones. They have languished in the cookie jar since December (it currently being March), and have not molded in the slightest. Consider that I live in the swamp that is Houston, Texas. Also consider that I used no preservatives, and that the cookies are filled with a syrupy raisin filling. Potato chips don’t mold, and McD’s fries are basically Lay’s. The burger would dry out, ostensibly, before it went truly funky.

    I might also add that my brother once hid the ends of a loaf of doughy white sandwich bread in its bag deep in the back of our pantry for several months. When my mother found it it looked like a gooey, green soup.

    It’s science. Who are we to argue?

  • Carrie Brennan

    I knew a guy in college who did this to a piece of delivery pizza…it looked just about the same after months on a window sill…ahh college!

  • nix

    mmm yummy! ^^

  • JL

    FYI all the McD’s ingredients are available at the link below in case everyone hasn’t seen it. A couple preservatives in everything (including the same ones they use in all your standard shelf bread in the grocery store) and a couple other nasties. Most interestingly though, they put TBHQ (preservative) in the mix of actual oil which they cook the fries in! I doubt this is common practice at your neighborhood burger joint, and it is a very good point (made in the post above) that there is literally no reason to put preservatives in food you will be eating “fast”.

  • JL
  • veronica (lifewithnature)

    That’s one of the many reasons why I don’t eat fast food!

  • Jackie

    The site is a very cool site lots of interesting things. I generally dont blog or anything but this reminded me of something. A few years ago now, at some point during thanksgiving dinner one of the rolls on our table fell off. None fo us noticed and no one smelt anything or saw anything unusual. Almost a year later when my aunt was moving some furniture around in the dinning room,a very similar experience happened. That little dinner roll was still perfect like it had been that past Thanksgiving dinner. I remember my aunt and i looked at each other and we oculdnt help but think about if some fo the ones we digested were still in perfect clumps in our stomachs. Im sure they werent but this story just reminded me of it.

  • DRC

    Oddly no one has mentioned the processing aids and incidental additives that are in these products – none of which have to be declared of course :) . Also, that meat may be 100% beef – but injected with a solution in the usual way. Also, due to heavy processing and most likely-hood of spice irradiation – there were no pathogens present to begin with :) . My kids have left an organic burger out for a few days before – within minutes you have flies, and within a day you have maggots. Big difference.

  • kris

    I can believe this, i’ve experienced it first hand and have never eaten Mc donalds since.
    When i was really little my babysitter took me to a mcdonalds, I ordered a happy meal but decided not to eat it. Earlier that day we had made a batch of playdo, not bought from the shops, but made the dough on the stove. I put my happy meal and the playdo wrapped in gladwrap in my pink backpack and promptly forgot about them. Somehow the backpack got lost when we got home. It turned up a year later, the playdo was mouldy and green, but the mc donalds happy meal looked exactly the same as the day we had bought it.
    From then on, my babysitter was never allowed to take me to McDonalds again, my dad still tells people this story.

  • Stephanie

    I am curious if anyone tried the experiment with a home-cooked burger, bun and fries. I know my bun would turn green within a week, as I made homemade hamburger buns a few weeks ago, and even in my bread box, they turned after a week (no preservatives or funky vegetable oils – just flour, yeast, salt and butter). I suspect that if you used canola oil (which is highly processed), your homemade buns would last longer.

    I am curious about the burgers and fries, though. What happens to potatoes when they’re fried? I suspect if you fried them in lard or beef tallow (what McDonald’s used to use before everyone decided vegetable oil was healthier – and cheaper), they would go bad. The modern vegetable oils might preserve them more.

    As for the beef, I’m very curious on that one. No idea what would happen, other than the salt acting as a natural preservative of sorts.

  • corrie

    Meh. This proves exactly nothing. The bun, fries and burger turned in to McJerky. It’s all simply dehydrated from sitting out. Had it been wrapped up and moisture wasn’t allowed to escape you would have had a pretty nasty find.

    • Quaid01

      go to youube and watch the video of the fast food kept in an air tight jar. No moisture escaping there tard.

  • Pamela Awad

    You just reminded me about something I learned recently about beef processing plants. They use ammonia to sterilize the ground beef. Do not know in what proportion, but I don’t think I want to ingest ammonia in any proportion whatsoever!

  • Selmada

    Pat Keahi :excellent post. thank you. reminds me of something I just learned from the Iditarod sled dog race, that Twinkies don’t freeze – even at -65F. That means Twinkies wouldn’t freeze on Mars either. “food” – yeah, right.
    love your site!

    If you havent already, check out “The Twinkie Deconstructed” and you’ll find that it contains nothing exceptional. Its also an amazing book to explain the origins of many common food and food components.

  • Corey

    @ Pat Keahi

    Twinkies freeze… that’s how they deep fry them and cover them in chocolate at the state fair! yum!

  • Brooke

    @ Corey

    This is why I stick to icecream when I’m at the state fair! ;)

  • Johanna

    While the fries not changing is really gross, here’s something of interest about the burger:

    In essence, the burger dehydrates to quickly for mold to grow due to lack of moisture.

  • Monica Hughes

    I’ve conducted a controlled experiment of McD’s vs. homemade food. Preliminary results here:

  • eunice

    Wow a year old i dont believe it! It looks like 2 days old eeeeeevvvviill!?

  • Michelle

    God Bless McDonalds…kidding. Why are they still the leader in fast food adn all over the world making billions……?

  • stephanie

    what you should be asking is why are we eating there still & why are we feeding this stuff to our kid the future leaders ! ! ! !

  • Smogollon

    I think Joan Rivers eats a LOT of Happy Meals.

  • Gary Busey

    This is fake. There is no way to keep food looking like that unless with was tampered with or refrigerated. People like to use McDonalds as a scapegoat to all the worlds fat problems, but its just not so. Kids are getting fat due to lazy parents and sedentary lifestyles, not the eeeeeeeevil McDonalds corporation. Its time for people to grow up and take responsibility for what they eat.